What Assets Need to Be Listed for Probate?

By John Cromwell

If you are appointed as the executor or administrator of an estate, one of the most important responsibilities you have is to gather and catalog all of the decedent’s property to be included in his probate estate. A probate estate asset is property the decedent owned not automatically transferred to someone else upon his death due to contract or operation of law. The rules of probate are defined by state law; therefore, standards may vary depending on where the decedent lived.

Probate Process

Probate is a judicial process overseen by a court. It begins shortly after a person dies. If a will exists, the court reviews it to ensure it complies with all drafting requirements established by state law. If the will meets these standards, the court certifies it and appoints the executor named in the will to oversee the estate. If the will is not valid or doesn't exist, the court then appoints a representative to oversee the estate, commonly referred to as the administrator. As an executor or administrator, you are responsible for gathering together all of the decedent's probate assets and using them to pay off any outstanding debts and claims against the estate. After all of the debts and claims are settled, you will either distribute the assets to the beneficiaries as identified in the will or, if there is no will, to the decedent’s heirs as defined by the state’s intestacy code.

Non-Probate Assets

Non-probate assets are assets transferred upon the decedent’s death to another entity by contract or operation of law. Examples of non-probate assets by contract include life insurance policies, 401(k)s, pensions and bank accounts payable on death. Examples of non-probate assets by operation of law are property subject to a right of survivorship and property jointly-owned by spouses.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Estate Inventory

In general, an executor or administrator must inventory the decedent’s probate assets shortly after being appointed. The purpose of taking inventory is to determine what property properly belongs in the estate and its value. The inventory describes assets in “reasonable detail,” including their fair market value as of the day the decedent died and any attached mortgages or other encumbrances. Examples of goods that should be included in the inventory are real estate held in the decedent’s name only, personal bank accounts, household goods and vehicles.

Transfer to Beneficiaries

Once probate assets have been gathered and decedent’s liabilities and debts paid, distribute the remaining probate property to the beneficiaries. Typically, the executor or administrator prepares a final inventory for the probate court along with a petition requesting closure of the estate so the remaining property can be distributed. You must notify all interested parties prior to the probate hearing. The probate court will review the petition, ensure all debts have been paid and then grant an order approving the distribution. You can then transfer assets to the people designated in the decedent’s will or by intestacy rules. To transfer real estate, or similar property, you should record a quitclaim deed in the recorder’s office of the county where the property is located. A quitclaim deed releases the estate from any interest in the transferred property and surrenders all ownership rights to the beneficiary.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
The Inheritance Statute in Washington, DC


Related articles

Can the Executor of a Will Put Property in Probate?

When a person dies, his assets must be distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries or heirs. To accomplish this, most of these assets go through the probate process first. This process, often administered by the courts, varies according to each state’s laws. Typically, title to a deceased person’s property cannot be changed without first going through the probate steps.

What to Do With a Will After a Death

Wills provide written documentation of the will maker's -- also called testator -- final wishes. Upon the death of the testator, the will undergoes a formal legal process known as probate. Probate helps determine the validity of the will and oversees the process of carrying out its directives. The person responsible for taking the will through probate is called an executor.

How to Split an Inheritance

When a person passes away, his property is transferred to other individuals. This transfer represents each recipient’s inheritance from the decedent. Distribution of the person’s property can occur in several ways. The decedent may have drafted a will prior to his death describing how his property is to be distributed. If the decedent died without a will, the property is disbursed under a scheme governed by state law called “intestacy.” Prior to distribution, the estate may be subject to the federal estate tax.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

Probate Vs. Non-Probate Assets in Ohio

In Ohio, as in other states, certain assets are classified as probate or non-probate property. Non-probate assets are ...

When Is an Estate Considered Settled?

When a person dies, his property is gathered into an estate. The estate is formed for the purpose of settling his ...

What Are the Requirements for Settling an Inheritance?

The probate process is designed to determine the disposition of property left behind when someone dies. The local ...

The Process of Opening an Estate

Although the process of opening an estate varies from state to state, many aspects of the process are essentially the ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED